THE LIBRARY OF THE
AT CHAPEL HILL
THE COLLECTION OF
North Caroliniana Society
Roots and branches
Together with Tributes to Wilma Dykeman by Dykeman Stokely,
Jim Stokely, and Robert Morgan on the Occasion of Tier
Acceptance of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 2001
NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY IMPRINTS
H. G.Jones, General Editor
No. I '. An Eiening at Monticello: An Essay in Reflection (1978)
by Edwin M. Gill
No. 2. The Paul Green I Know (1978)
by Elizabeth Lay Green
No. 3. The Albert Coates I Know (1979)
by Gladys Hall Coates
No. 4. The Sam Ervin I Know (1980)
by Jean Conyers Ervin
No. 5. Sam Ragan (1981)
Iry Neil Morgan
No. 6. Thomas Wolfe of North Carolina (1982)
edited by H. G Jones
No. 7. Gertrude Sprague Carraway (1982)
by Sam Ragan
No. 8. John Fries Blair (1983)
by Margaret Blair McCuiston
No. 9. William Clyde Enday and Ida Howell Friday (1984)
by Georgia Carroll Kyser and William Brantley Aycock
No. 10. WilliamS. Powell. Historian (1985)
Iry Daiid Stick and William C Friday
No. It. "Gallantry Unsurpassed" (1985)
edited by Archie K. Dai is
No. 12. Mary and Jim Semans, North Carolinians (1986)
by W. Kenneth Goodson
No. 13. The High Water Mark (1986)
edited Iry Archie K. Davis
No. 14. Raleigh and Quinn: The Explorer and His Boswell (1987)
edited by H. G. Jones
No. 15. A Half Century in Coastal History (1987)
by Daiid Stick
No. 16. Thomas Wolfe at Eighty-seven (1988)
edited by H. G. Jones
No. 17. A Third of a Century in Senate Cloakrooms (1988)
by William McWhorter Cochrane
[continued on inside back cover]
Roots and branches
Together with Tributes to Wilma "Dykeman by Dykeman Stokely,
Jim Stokely, and Robert Morgan on the Occasion of Her
Acceptance of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 200 1
Chapel Hill 27514-8890
NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY, INC
AND NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION
NORTH CAROUNIANA SOCIETY' IMPRINTS
H. G.Jones, General Editor
This edition is limited to
five hundred copies
of which this is number
A O Q
^i u u
Copyright ©2001 by
North Caroliniana Society
UNC Campus Box 3930
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514-8890
http:/ 1 www. ncsociety. org
All rights reserved
Manufactured in the United States of America
Roots and Branches, by Wilma Dykeman 3
Opening Remarks and Introductions, by H. G. Jones 13
Reflections of the First Son, by Dykeman Stokely 16
Reflections of the Second Son, by Jim Stokely 20
A Good Spring Is Hard to Come By, by Robert Morgan 23
Presentation of the Award, by Willis P. Whichard 34
Acceptance of the Award, by Wilma Dykeman 35
North Caroliniana Society Award Recipients 37
Photographs of the Occasion 38
Cover Photo: Pack Square in Asheville, 1910, by H. W. Pelton. A landmark familiar
to Wilma Dykeman's parents, Willard and Bonnie Cole Dykeman. Courtesy 1 Library oj
Congress. Other photo credits: North Carolina Arboretum, page lv. Nick Lanier, 2, 38b,
38c, 40b, 42b. Jan Hensley, 12a, 12b, 12c, 12d, 38a, 39a, 39b, 40a, 40c, 41b, 41c, 43a,
43b. Jerry IF. Cotten, 12e, 12f, 39c, 41a, 42a, 42c, 43c. North Carolina Collection, 37.
A The North Carolina
The University of North Carolina
Roots and branches
Delivered before the North Caroliniana Society in
The North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville,
Prior to the Awards Banquet on 1 6 June 2001
Roots and branches
Welcome to our mountains in this springtime. The poet William
Blake has reminded us that "great things happen when men and mountains
meet; this does not come by jostling in the street."
As a point of personal privilege I would add the William Buder Yeats
thought that "An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing. . . ."
I welcome you who so generously make me clap hands and sing
today. And I am reminded of the child I met on a bookmobile journey years
ago before television or e-mail connected her deep mountain hollow with the
rest of the world. Our litde library- on-wheels stopped at a crossroads where
I watched a group of elderly, middle-aged, and young readers pour out of the
country store, carrying arm-loads of books to exchange for another month of
As I came down the steps on that spring morning I paused. "There's
a fine fragrance in the air today," I said. "Something special must be in
One litde girl, her face scrubbed to a shine and her dress freshly
starched, stepped forward. "Why, it's us. When the bookmobile ladies come
we put talcum in our bosoms."
It was as sincere and as original an appreciation as I ever received and
I want you to know that I followed my young friend's manners and dusted
with talcum powder this evening.
I have chosen to share some memories in the context of a paragraph
written by philosopher-poet-essayist George Santayana:
There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the
familiar to the unfamiliar. It keeps the mind agile, it fosters
humor, it kills prejudice. The more arts and manners a traveler has
assimilated, the more depth and pleasantness he will see in the
4 WILMA DYKEMAN
manners and arts of his own home. The human heart is local and
finite, it has roots. And if the intellect radiates from it according
to its strength, to greater and greater distances, the reports, if they
are to be gathered up at all, must be gathered at that center.
My conversation with you is one of those reports.
While contemplating this theme I attended a dinner recognizing
recipients of honorary degrees at the University of North Carolina at
Asheville. My friend of forty years, historian John Hope Franklin, and my
neighbor in the woods of Beaverdam valley, philanthropist Adelaide Daniels
Key, captivated the audience by recollections of mentors who had shaped each
of their lives.
They led me to consider decisive experiences with my own mentors.
Each created a center from which the reports of which Santayana spoke might
radiate to greater and greater distances of place and time.
First, I was given the rooted heart by a transplanted New York father
and a native Buncombe County mother. (I used to reassure skeptical friends
that my fadier wasn't born here but, better still, he adopted this place the way
an adopted child is chosen.)
Having read about our mountains in Harper's and other magazines and
in Horace Kephart's Our Southern Highlanders, Willard Dykeman came to
Asheville when he was past middle age. He met my young mother, whose
family had been in Western North Carolina for generations, and when he
returned north from his visit in Beaverdam valley he sent Bonnie Cole a copy
of Thoreau's Walden (my motiier's families were avid readers), sold most of his
property, and came back to Asheville. Despite her father's doubts about an
elderly man who was also a Yankee, Bonnie quietly had her way. They were
married and built an Adirondack-style cottage in the woods beside a stream in
a cusp of the mountains. They were the most compatible couple I have ever
I was their only child.
I do not remember ever being lonesome.
My attention was rooted in little rituals:
One: walks in the woods that began when my lively little fox terrier,
Frisky, went wild with excitement as she watched my father choose one of his
favorite canes and walk out on the rustic bridge connecting our back porch to
the path halfway up the hillside. (I should note that he did not use a cane to
support himself but to probe a hidden opening in the ground or the trunk of
a fallen tree, or point out the shape of a moss-bearded rock.) Tucked between
that hill and a larger mountain rising behind it lay a little valley alive with
spring violets and winter galax, herbs, birds, insects, and a cold, bold spring
gushing water into a reservoir that supplied our home down the hill. It was
here each Christmas we made our pilgrimage for the perfect litde tree.
ROOTS ,4ND BK4NCHES 5
Another favorite ritual: going to the mailbox each morning. In his
noisy antique Ford the mailman might leave messages from distant places, but
he always left the New York Herald Tribune with its bold headlines and big city
smell of newsprint. And in its pages was a Thornton W. Burgess "Bedtime
Story." In the evening, carefully tracing its margins with a sharp knife, my
father lifted out news from the Green Forest and Laughing Brook and Old
Orchard where creatures of feather and far and fin had adventures that made
their lives similar to our own. As he read these nature stories to me and we
pasted them in a book that grew fatter and fatter, I learned that weather could
be cruel or nurturing, and humans were thoughtful friends or careless visitors.
(Were these perhaps the Harry Potters of an earlier, simpler era, creating
magic in a natural rather than supernatural world?)
There was the seasonal ritual of kindling the first winter fire in the
wide fireplace: a fundamental experience, watching the quick blaze of slivered,
fragment pine as it took hold on sturdy oak and hickory logs and settled into
a serious fire, while my mother and father read aloud to each other — novels,
biography, poetry, history — oh, often history — and I sprawled between their
chairs and traced the colorful patterns of Navajo rugs they had collected on
And there was the ultimate ritual: a summer visit to our northern
relatives. Maps were pulled out of a drawer in the little walnut stand beside
our fireplace as my father laid out various routes across North Carolina,
Virginia, Pennsylvania, and along the Hudson River Valley where we could
explore natural wonders and historic sites. At these places my father could tell
of past events in such rich detail that I must have wondered if he had been
there, done that.
There was a final ritual. On a golden June morning following my
fourteenth birthday, my father died abruptly of a heart attack.
Though one of my mentors had left, my mother's rooted heart still
prevailed in the place she always called simply The Place.
The heritage Bonnie and Willard gave me there might be best
understood by a moment in my childhood beside our stream. As we stood
watching the water splash over rocks, around boulders, beneath tall trees and
clumps of rhododendron, they suddenly asked if I knew where the creek was
born. Born? I didn't know a creek was born. Deep in the mountains around
us, they said, where the water from rain gathered in webs of roots and earth
and deep springs and was gradually released into the clear, bold flow we were
watching and hearing.
Then, did I know where the stream went? It hadn't occurred to me
Well, tliis stream went to Asheville where it joined the French Broad
River which hurried through the mountains to join the Holston River from
6 WILMA DIKEMAN
Virginia and form the mighty Tennessee. That river swept south and
northwest and west to become part of the Ohio and finally join the mighty
Mississippi where it was carried to mingle with the great waters of the world.
There was a wonder to this whole ancient process. Water sucked up
into the atmosphere and carried by clouds around the world fell to earth again
as rain. And who could say? Some drops from this very creek might return
here someday as rain!
Here was example of a truth I later found beautifully and succincdy
expressed by poet e. e. cummings: "A world of born is not a world of made."
It was also my first lesson in globalization. I lived in a little mountain
valley that might seem to strangers to be remote from the rest of the world
but was, in fact, connected to all the world.
I had learned that the personal may be universal and my intellect, such
as it was, or is, radiated to the ever-widening distance Santayana described.
Following the Depression which has been called our country's
"invisible scar" (and it certainly left a deep financial scar on our family), I
attended Biltmore Junior College (forerunner of UNC-A), and I still marvel
with deep, if delayed, appreciation for all I learned — not just in books — from
that under-paid, under-appreciated faculty. Then I took a great leap and
entered Northwestern University. It was a challenge with a host of rewards.
I graduated with a scholarship for graduate study and also/or a contract for
television work in New York. I accepted the latter and returned to Asheville
to make ready for a career in the Big City.
Then life branched out in an unexpected way.
On a Sunday morning in August, in my robe, I was picking flowers
in my mother's garden when Thomas Wolfe's sister, Mabel Wheaton, and her
husband brought a young man from Tennessee to our place. She had told
me — often — about James Stokely, who knew Tom and had been, in her
words, "a prince" to her and her mother since Tom's death. I was ordered to
get dressed and join them for Sunday dinner. I did.
James Stokely came back to my home on Monday morning. Alone.
And Tuesday. And Wednesday.
Two weeks later I visited at his mother's home in Newport,
Tennessee. Here was the dining room where Thomas Wolfe had eaten supper
(including thirty-two biscuits remembered by Maggie, Mrs. Stokely's cook,
twenty years later after she had moved north but stayed in touch with James).
Here was the library where Thomas Wolfe had offered to sign books and then
thumbed through a few of his favorite passages from other writers. This
library spread a kind of feast — not because of its numbers but because of its
variety and the fact that these books were read, underlined, lived with. This
library rose above the world of made to the world of born.
It also represented the choice that was at the heart of James's life and,
ROOTS . AND BK4NCHES 7
of course, mine too, as our lives joined.
When his father, James Stokely, a founder and first president of a
successful canning company, had died at the untimely age of forty-seven, his
name had been left on the door of the chief executive's office until his young
son, James, could assume company leadership.
It was not to be.
In college James made a memorable record in mathematics and
received a degree in business. But he did not go to Indianapolis, where
Stokely- Van Camp headquarters were eventually located. Instead he bought
an apple orchard and, later, another one, after we were married, in Asheville.
(This was the highly regarded Webb Orchard planted by the visionary owner
of the Asheville Citizen, a man I wish to acknowledge as one of those who
helped make the Great Smoky Mountains a national park). But James's true
interest was literature, woods, mountains— and writing.
Looking back, I realize that in my first visit down the river to
Newport with James there were two experiences that would influence the
course of our lives together and our writing.
First, as we crossed the Pigeon River to climb the hill to his family
home, he slowed the car so that I might witness the choking, stinking,
shocking pollution of that river, water that was clear and swift and sparkling
at its headwaters in North Carolina. I had never witnessed such degradation
of the world of born.
Second, James took me to the other side of town to meet some of the
black community. I found that James had a variety of friends there. One of
them was "Miss May," a school teacher about whom I later wrote.
The most memorable was a doctor, over half of whose patients were
white. We later wrote an article for Ebony magazine and joined him in
Hollywood when the television program, "This Is Your Life," featured his
story and a variety of his patients. (One, a young race car driver, white of
course, whose life was saved by the good doctor after an especially shattering
accident, told his story in such vivid, ungrammatical, Appalachian detail that
the studio audience was reluctant to let him go.) Dr. Dennis Branch was born
and educated in North Carolina and sometimes reminded me that we were
both Tar Heel Volunteers, or Volunteer Tar Heels.
Our threatened environment. Our racial divide. These challenged my
sense of place.
There were also James's friends among mountain neighbors who lived
on or near the orchards. With them his harvest was not only of apples but of
language and humor, tall tales and grief, and that knowledge we label
"folklore," as valuable as information stored in his library. The orchards and
the seasons on which we were all so dependent brought us close to the world
of born, the world of Robert Frost's "Provide! Provide!" (Frost, poet and
8 WILMA DYKEMAN
apple-grower and friend, influenced James in deep, life-altering ways.)
Our lives were centered on the land, books, travel, and eventually two
sons (in reverse order of importance). Then one day in the early Fifties,
remembering a trip we had made across the country with Rivers of America
books in the trunk of our car, James propositioned me. "You've always lived
on the headwaters of the French Broad in North Carolina and I've always
lived along its Tennessee course. Why don't you write a book about our
river?" (He should have said "we" because the research was always a joint
It was a challenging suggestion and I wrote Rinehart Company (later
Holt, Rinehart) to ask if they would be interested in a book about the French
Broad. I didn't know they didn't know it was a river. There was considerable
merriment in the office until an assistant who had visited Asheville set the
editors straight. A letter informed me that diey weren't going to invest in any
of the smaller rivers. Of course, if a book were interesting enough they would
publish it about a river no wider than a man's hand.
I took the challenge and sent them a chapter and an outline.
The immediate response was favorable, except for my proposed
chapter on pollution. They believed this would be a lively, fascinating
book — and pollution was a dead subject! (Remember, this was the early
Fifties.) I hesitated, then replied that I had to have this chapter but I would
try to make it interesting. I would call it "Who Killed the French Broad?"
Perhaps people would think it was a murder mystery. (Of course, it was a
murder but not a mystery.) At publication that chapter received more
response, from Raleigh to California, than any other part of the book. (Some
of the Civil War history was also fresh and led Bernard DeVoto to sponsor me
for a Guggenheim Fellowship.)
Another detail I should mention to this audience: My editor asked if
I had an illustrator in mind. I did not and would let them choose one from
their roster. Almost immediately they informed me that they had sent the
manuscript to one of their favorite artists, Douglas Gorsline, and he had called
them. He liked the book, would be happy to be associated with it, and noticed
that the author liked Thomas Wolfe. He had painted the only portrait for
which Thomas Wolfe ever posed, and after Wolfe's deadi he made a copy for
a young man from Tennessee, James Stokely. He wondered if these two knew
each other. Indeed they did, the editor informed him. Wilma Dykeman was
Discovering the richness of diversity in our French Broad country,
often taking our family along on our explorations, inspired us to look ever
more deeply at die South where we lived, and the wider South stretching from
Appalachia to die Gulf, from the Adantic to the Rio Grande. Every aspect of
the region's life was experiencing historic change. (Sometimes it seems that
ROOTS .4ND BRANCHES 9
the South has always been in the throes of historic change. Perhaps that's why
it persists in producing so many strong writers.)
We proposed a book of exploration across our region (messages from
the front, as it were, and the front was everywhere) by two Southerners who
had no title or commitments or hidden agenda beyond a deep desire to see our
region come to grips with its history, using its rich variety of resources to
create a world of made that would reenforce the world of born with which it
was/is so blessed.
Holt gave us a contract.
We clipped back into our own history and read voraciously, from the
most distinguished scholars to the most vicious diatribes. And we traveled.
Along a dusty rural road we witnessed the chilling anonymity of KKK hoods
and robes at a gathering in a country churchyard, and at a landmark meeting
of the Southern Historical Association we heard William Faulkner voice his
famous challenge on the inevitability of racial justice. From Charleston's
Battery to Houston's oil fields the South was many Souths with one factor that
held them all hostage: race. The tide of our book, Neither Black Nor White, was
meant to suggest that the South is also the color of green — in woods and
fields and money; red as in blood; blue and gold as in water and sky and
sunlight. Sometimes greed eroded goodness but joy in another corner of the
region refreshed belief in the world of born and spirit.
The New York Times Magazine condensed parts of the book and
eventually we wrote numerous articles for it and other publications. (When
the Times celebrated its centennial, an article of ours was selected as one of the
one hundred best from among those 5,200 weeks of publication. In the index
we were listed between DuBois and Einstein, heady company for writers
whose home/office remained in the suburbs of the Great Smoky Mountains.)
Altogether I wrote three books with my husband. Two of these
brought us into the orbit of Terry Sanford who wrote introductions to our
book for Time-Life, The Border States, and Prophet of Plenty, the latter a
biography of educator and social visionary, W. D. Weatherford. One of the
fringe benefits of writing is acquaintance with a few of the giants among
leaders of our time, and Governor Sanford's legacy reaches across this
state — and beyond.
Writing a book with each of my sons was a challenge, an adventure,
and above all a treat. We managed to put professional above personal
predilections in style and content.
My three novels I had to write alone. They are my favorite of
The spirit of my mentors' rooted hearts and radiating intellects still
lives. In 1977 James Stokely, while working in his garden following lectures
at a writer's workshop, suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly, lying
1 WllMA DYKEMAN
on the fresh, green grass. We met in a garden and we parted in a garden. His
generous spirit speaks in books and poems he wrote, in his sons' lives — and
in the woodlands he saved for future generations.
And Bonnie Dykeman's spirit is still at The Place. A final effort of
her life was planting a yellow lady-slipper she rescued from a roadside
salesman. This spring there were twenty-three blossoms proclaiming her
nurture of the world of born.
In the world of born is our survival.
Tributes to Wilma Dykeman
Including Proceedings of a Banquet on the Occasion of Her
Acceptance of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 2001
The North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville, 16 June 2001
SPK4KERS during the North Caroliniana Society Award Banquet on 16 June 2000
ivere (left to right, top to bottom) H. G. Jones, Willis P. Whichard, George Briggs, Robert
Morgan, Dykeman Stokely, and Jim Stokely.
Remarks and Introductions
H. G. Jones
Friends of Wilma Dykeman, fellow North Carolinians:
One has only to look through these windows to the magnificent views
to understand why, for the first time, the North Caroliniana Society wanted
to come to Wilma Dykeman's home grounds for its annual meeting and award
ceremony. True, Wilma would have brightened up any venue down around
Chapel Hill and Raleigh, but here in this beautiful setting we flatlanders can
share the exhilaration of standing tiptoe on the rim of heaven. So, Wilma,
thank you for letting many of your lowland — even lowbrow — friends come
to your mountains to share this evening with you, your sons, and so many of
the people who are closest to you both in terms of friendship and geography.
We know how much this very institution, the North Carolina Arboretum,
means to you, and it is especially fitting that we gather here to recognize your
Before we proceed further, we should acknowledge that this event
would not have been possible without the assistance of our Asheville friends.
Just so we can say thank you, will the following please stand and remain
standing, and will the audience withhold our applause until all have
recognized: George Briggs, executive director of the North Carolina
Arboretum, who kindly invited us to this grand facility; Kendra Rudeen, who
handled the details here onsite; Ron Holland, head of the western office of the
State Division of Archives and History and his wife Kathy and staff members
John Beaver, Nick Lanier, and Christine Saitta, who performed many chores;
and two members of the Society from Asheville, Senator Marie Colton and
Judge Harry Martin, who so warmly welcomed us. [Applause.]
We are deeply touched by the generosity of Hart Squire of Hart
Distributors of Weaverville for the donation of the wine in memory of his
mother, Elizabeth Daniels Squire, and the floral display before me is also in
her memory; our hearts are with Chick and his family.
The Society's slogan, "Substance, not Show," explains why our award
presentations are not publicized widely through the press or airwaves: we want
14 NORTH CAROUNLANA SOCIETY
the recipient to be among relatives and friends. We were pleased, however,
that our President Emeritus Bill Friday took this occasion to interview Wilma
for his "North Carolina People" program, which will be aired on WUNC-TV
next week. In addition, the entire proceedings of this event, including Wilma's
afternoon address, will be published later this year in our North Caroliniana
Society Imprints series, and each of you will receive by mail a copy as a
Some in this audience have known Wilma much longer than I, but my
first contact with her 45 years ago was documented by a photograph, which
will remind Wilma of the occasion. It was on 13 November 1956 that she
came to the North Carolina State Archives to conduct research in connection
with the forthcoming book Neither Black Nor White, and her visit was also
captured in a diary that I have been keeping for 64 years. Of course, back in
those days it never occurred to me that a married woman could keep her
maiden surname, so I wrote, "I took Mrs. Wilma Dykeman Stokely (wife of
Stokely Vegetables and author of the French Broad) to Hofbrau for lunch. Very
delightful time. She is a good conversationalist." The second day, she
researched in the Archives and spoke to our staff. On the third morning we
met at the S&W cafeteria for breakfast, and I drove her to Durham, where
she spoke before the Southern Historical Association. My diary verdict:
"Heard Mrs. Stokely's paper on Southern Demogogues — excellent." Soon
afterward, "Mrs. Stokely" became "Wilma," and a warm association has
continued over the years. For example, in the 1950s the Southern Historical
Association admitted a few black historians to its membership, but of course
they were not permitted to sleep or eat in the all-white hotels. At a meeting
at Emory University, Wilma and I supported a resolution, to the scowls of
many of our learned colleagues, that would have instructed the council to
select no headquarters hotel that refused service to any of our members. We
lost the batde that day, but we won the war, for enough consciences were
touched that within a few years the issue was quiedy setded. Wilma
Dykeman's influence has extended far beyond the readers of her books.
Like the mountains that she loves, Wilma ranges on both sides of our
western state line — in fact, she was named State Historian of Tennessee and
wrote the bicentennial history of our western province — but we claim her as
our own, and we are honored tonight to hear from three persons that we also
claim as our own.
Two of them know her so well that she may be afraid that they will
tell too much. She, though, will have a chance for rebuttal.
Following the law of primogeniture, Dykeman C. Stokely goes first.
Dykeman graduated from Yale with honors in English and received his
master's degree from Duke University. Like his parents, he has followed a
literary career, participating in conferences and festivals and coauthoring with
TRIB UTES TO WILMA D\KEM4N 1 5
his mother the text for the popular book, Appalachian Mountains. In 1982 he
accompanied directors of the Phelps-Stokes Fund of New York on a trip to
China and wrote a report on "Education in Minority Regions of China."
Studies in anthropology and archaeology have taken him to Europe, South
America, and Asia. He now lives in New York and is the owner and publisher
of a small press, Wakestone Books, which distributes books of the region
across the country with special attention to schools. Dykeman Stokely.
[Dykeman Stokely's tribute begins on page 16.]
James R. Stokely III is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale and holds
an M.B.A. from Stanford University. He has combined a scholarly and
business career. The author of a variety of publications, one of his especially
notable accomplishments was the initiation and administering of a unique
four-year adult education program tided "An Appalachian Experience,"
attended by 25,000 participants at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and culminating in
An Encyclopedia of East Tennessee. Jim's business career has taken him to
California, Georgia, Kentucky, and now to Massachusetts, where he is
Director of Human Resources for the General Lighting Division of Osram
Sylvania. Jim married Anne Callison of Asheville, and they have presented
Wilma with two grandchildren named Elizabeth and Will. Jim Stokely.
[Jim Stokely's tribute begins on page 20.]
Here, fewer than 25 miles from his birthplace near Zirconia, Robert
Morgan — like Wilma — is at home, and we are delighted that his mother, Mrs.
Fannie L. Morgan, could be here to hear both him and Wilma. In reading
Robert Morgan's poetry and prose, we suspect that if this farm boy was ever
bored in the fields or around the barns, it was because he couldn't wait to get
back to his pen and paper (and eventually typewriter) to record his perception
of everything and everybody around him. In both poetry and fiction, Robert
Morgan writes about die raz/Appalachia, the real people, for, as Fred Chappell
says, he "knows every corner, every inch, of the way of life he portrays," and
he proves that the soil of Henderson County has produced not only pole
beans — which seem to have played an important role in his life — but also an
author who can paint word pictures of that life accurately, vividly, and
poignandy. Who else could have made poetry out of a junkyard, a hubcap, a
June Bug, a hogpen, even an earache? Unlike Julie Harmon and Hank
Richards who spent such a terrible year on Gap Creek south of the border,
Robert Morgan's sojourn across state lines has been a happy one, but like Julie
and Hank, he, too, knows when it is time to return. That he is here tonight
to honor a fellow literary artist in whose shadow he grew to manhood
reassures us that even as an acclaimed author and distinguished professor at
one of the nation's leading universities, Cornell, he has never really left North
Carolina. Welcome home, Robert Morgan.
[Robert Morgan s tribute begins on page 23.]
Reflections of the First Son
About the time I started school, I became aware of the strangeness
of my parents' occupation, that of writers. I noticed that my mother spent
much of her day on our porch or in a chair upstairs absorbed in reading and
writing while facing the mountains. For a few minutes I would like to describe
how my mother's husband and her mother helped clarify for my brother and
me what this unusual activity meant. My father, in particular, with a
personality which reached out to all people and things, loved to form
connections between the mountain region and the larger American society that
must have influenced my mother in her work.
Our father would himself read and write in a room next to my
mother's and often visited her to share Ins ideas. At lunch and dinner, on the
other hand, he shared with the whole family excerpts from a motley of
newspaper articles and books covering every subject imaginable. He also
occasionally and unexpectedly recited Shakespeare's soliloquies and his own
poetry to us in a dramatic manner. These presentations startled us and made
us laugh but also, without our realizing it, aroused our curiosity and helped
make the mysteries of reading and writing manifest to us.
In addition to his literary preoccupations, my father spent part of the
year like a farmer, growing a variety of vegetables and fruits in his large garden.
In this garden my brother and I could witness nature as it changed through the
seasons. This experience was reinforced by family car trips to nearby towns
but also to distant national parks and cities. On these trips we could observe
an astonishing array of natural and manmade environments.
These trips tended to begin simply enough, on the interstate
highways, but, especially on the return portions, included numerous side
excursions on state and county roads that tried our patience since we were
usually eager to return home. But our slow, all-inclusive travel enabled our
mother to point out to us how man and nature could interact in the eyes of
writers. She had us note and ponder, for instance, the sedge that Ellen
Glasgow described in her South and the wind that permeated the West in
TRIB UTES TO WILMA D^TENLAN 1 7
Dorothy Scarborough's fiction.
My brother and I also started to realize that other car trips, those that
our parents took around the South without us, resulted in books and articles,
although we did not read these works for some years. During the latter trips,
we were left in the care of our grandmother, sometimes at her home in the
woods near Asheville.
The trip of theirs I remember the best was one from which they
returned late one Christmas Eve. We were worried that they would not get
back before the holiday, and I had bought some greenery that boys were
selling from door to door. When our parents finally arrived in the evening, we
learned that they had been observing the bus boycott in Montgomery.
During the periods when our parents were away, our grandmother
held our attention by reciting long narrative poems and tales and by
remembering childhood friends and relatives. She and other mountain people,
by providing each other with self-made entertainment such as storytelling,
were able to enjoy living in the present moment and to connect themselves
with larger communities of people and nature that surrounded them.
On the other hand, my grandmother's husband, the grandfather we
never knew, was described to us by my grandmother and mother as a farmer
who came originally from the North and frequently read for hours in books
about history. He would point out to my mother, when she was a girl, that the
realms of history and geography reached even into the mountains around
Asheville. Later, after our mother's novels began to appear, my brother and
I perhaps drew an unconscious connection between them and the gifts of her
parents — her father's historical understanding and the living oral traditions
that her mother represented. Also, we could not help but notice our mother's
special focus on the natural world that the scholarly and folk worlds of her
parents were each related to.
Unlike my grandfather, my father's interest in history lay almost
entirely in its direct connection to living people. Perhaps this interest in
people, coupled with his amazing ability to remember facts, stimulated his
proclivity for genealogy. He would hold people spellbound at parties as he
told them of their possible relationship to well-known deceased persons such
as his own distant relative by marriage, Frances Hodgson Burnett (famous for
Utile Lord Fauntkroy and The Secret Garden) who, when asked by her publisher
why her early stories were so English in style, replied that she was a native of
England (but by that time she left the mountains, the rural hardships she had
observed had become a central part of her fiction). Unfortunately for the
partygoers, my father was even more intrigued by unique mountain characters
than by individuals of international renown, and it was sometimes only my
father's enthusiasm that finally won people over as he discussed their
1 8 NORTH CAKOUNIANA SOCIETi^
Nothing pleased my father more than to feel like he was bringing the
world of the intellect to the mountains or was making the mountains of
interest to the larger society. Once, when my grandmother pointed out the
home of a rather poor family near Reems Creek where she had grown up, my
father insisted on a visit. When asked what kind of children they had, the
mother of the family noted, "They're all good except for the young 'un over
there — he's bad to read." "Bad to read?" my father questioned. "Why he
would read all the time if we gave him books," she answered. Naturally,
though he may have brought displeasure to the parents, this induced my father
to provide the boy with an abundance of reading material.
Another time, before I was born, a would-be actor and scholar in
New York had borrowed money in order to make a pilgrimage to the South
for Thomas Wolfe's funeral. Of course, it was he, rather than the celebrities
at the event, who interested my father the most, and they became friends.
Later, while visiting the region again at my grandmodier's, the actor was sitting
one afternoon among socialite friends my fadier's sister had brought up from
Florida. At one point, he turned pale and stood up. Walking up to my
grandmother, his hands shaking, he groaned, "I need a T. S. Eliot! I need a
T. S. Eliot!" My grandmother rummaged through her house and finally
unearthed a copy of Eliot's poetry. He was astonished and grateful that this
woman raised in the mountains could oblige him and spare him mental
As diese incidents show, my father, through his habit of introducing
such varied people and social spheres to each other, offered a model to my
modier of what a writer could also do — within a literary work. In her second
novel, The Far Family, for example, my mother depicted the contrasts and the
gulfs of communication that can exist inside a single family.
I would like to conclude by noting the German translation of The Far
Family, which did not borrow the original tide but instead was taken from the
novel's ending. The last two paragraphs of the novel occur just after Ivy
Thurston has said farewell at the airport to her son, the senator, who had
come to solve a crisis involving her colorful brother Clay Thurston, a figure
with both enormous flaws and virtues. They read as follows:
Clay felt that no one cared. The point is, she thought, he didn't
care enough himself. "Like me! Love me!" Clay had always
demanded of the world, even when he was defying it most
belligerently, fighting it most savagely. Perhaps especially then.
But all the npping and tearing and rebellion had been a casing, a
skin for the raw, quivering protoplasm of him which begged, "Like
me! Love me! Let me know that I am here and that I matter to
you because you wanted me, because without me your life would
have been less gay, less real ... it would have been less. Let me
believe that without mv life all life would have been smaller, less
TRIBUTES TO WILMA DYKEMAN 19
Ivy sighed. "But the secret — ah, Clay, the secret, was to say, 'I like!
I love!' And then you possessed the world."
The German translation of the second paragraph is the following:
Ivy seuftze. "Aber das Geheimnis, Clay, das Geheimnis ist, selbst
zu sagen: 'Ich brauche dich, ich liebe dich.' Und dann, Clay, ware
die Welt dein gewesen."
My mother, when she received a copy of the translation, thought that
the tide, Dann Ware die Welt Dein Gewesen, taken from the last sentence, meant
"Then you will the world possess" and was relieved to learn later it actually
meant, "Then you would have the world possessed." But she was still
disappointed that the original tide could not have been used.
Reflections of the Second Son
Here's a story that speaks to a pair of qualities — determination and
loyalty — that should be associated with Wilma Dykeman. In the 1930s, our
dad purchased 200 acres of woodland in East Tennessee. This land stretched
from Carson's Creek in the heart of the English Mountains all the way to the
high ridge of that range, where you could see the Great Smoky Mountains to
the east and a far flat vista to the west. On this land grew oak and poplar and
all the fine hardwoods of the Southern mountains. After a steep initial rise
from the creek, it eased out into a high plateau, where word had it that old
man Baxter had farmed and flourished. A year-round stream gathered its
waters on this land, and flowed into Carson's Creek through a canopy of
After our parents got married, they moved to these 200 acres and
built a small stone house. Thev named it Wakestone. The two largest pieces
of furniture in Wakestone were a piano, which neither of them could play, and
a Victrola, on which they listened to symphony after symphony and opera
after opera on 78 rpm records. They later moved to the big brick house our
grandfather had built in Newport fifty years earlier, and there they raised us.
Sometimes we would return to die 200 acres and just walk in the woods. One
winter after we had seen a movie called "The Track of the Cat," we tracked
our parents through a foot of snow and caught them crouching in the middle
of a grove of Mr. Baxter's grown-up pines on the high plateau.
By the mid-1970s, money was tight. The Stokely- Van Camp canning
fortune was long since in other people's hands, but that's another story. Our
dad sold an occasional piece of mountain land near Asheville to pay for my
brother's and my education at boarding school and college, but with
something called "the energy crisis" just dawning, no one was buying more
property. So we had to take a close look at the land in East Tennessee — not
to sell it, but just to timber it, to selectively cut (in the words of the loggers)
the best of what was there, which really meant to cut everything except the
worst of what was there.
TRIBUTES TO WILM4 DYKEMAN 21
So one day we walked up there with long faces to make the final
decision. I couldn't see any alternative to selling the timber, but Mother had
been approached by the Patiifinder Fund in Boston to write the biography of
Edna Rankin McKinnon, a tireless worker for birth control. Now the last
thing Mother wanted to do at that point in her life was to hire herself out for
a year and to further delay the novel-writing that was closest to her heart.
Even so, after we had walked the woods, as we were returning to our car,
Mother said, "I've made up mind. We are not selling these trees. I'm going
to write the Pathfinder book." So, if you're thinking that maybe the
environment and such are nice little hobbies for Wilma Dykeman Stokely, you
would be mistaken. My brother and I own those 200 acres today, and we're
not selling, either.
So much for determination and loyalty; now for the good stuff. The
good stuff in any life includes at least four things: remembering the past,
travel, laughter, and looking forward to the future.
Remembering the past. We're doing a lot of remembering this evening.
I grew up thinking of the French Broad River as "Mommy's river." One of
my first strong memories is lying across my mother's lap in our 1955 gray-and-
white Buick, feeling the evening breeze on my back while Daddy drives us
around the curves beside the French Broad on old Highway 25 between
Marshall and Asheville. Remembering the past reminds us that we are not
alone, that (as Wendell Berry has said) our community includes the living and
the dead, and that we can probably see them all around us if we look hard
Travel. We took some great family trips. In 1961 we drove through
New England and Canada to the Seatde World's Fair. Our family, which on
significant trips always included Bonnie Cole Dykeman, or "Grandma Dyke,"
visited western Europe in die summer of 1965. It was a wonderful experience
winch Mother wrote about in her book, Look to This Day. In the mid-1970s,
Mother and I drove to Massachusetts for two weeks to research the Thomas
Wolfe papers at Harvard. We learned a lot on that trip, much of which can be
summed up by a mistake someone made while editing "The Return of the
Prodigal." In Eliza Gant's great monologue, Wolfe has his mother refer to
"old Craggy towerin' in the background." Anyone who has lived in western
North Carolina knows that Craggy is a mountain. But somehow this got
mangled in The Hills Beyond into "old Craggy Tavern in the background." Talk
about stereotyping. Travel is the enemy of stereotypes. Travel takes us
beyond ourselves, and reminds us that there's more in heaven and earth than
could possibly be dreamt of in our philosophy — different people, animals,
Laughter. One day Mother and I found ourselves in the basement of
the visitor center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Sugarland,
22 NORTH C4R0UNIANA SOCIETl^
just outside of Gatlinburg. We were selecting old photographs to include in
our history of the people of the Great Smokies. One of the rangers
mentioned that a file drawer in the corner contained some old books. We
opened that drawer and discovered a neat stack of Horace Kephart's leather-
bound diaries. We told the rangers, "You might as well get used to our faces
because we're moving in for a while." Over the next few days, we relished one
discovery after another in Kephart's day books. For example, Kephart
brought to a family on Hazel Creek a sack of shortbread biscuits they'd never
seen before. The eight-year-old son took one out behind the corncnb.
Kephart noted this and wandered over later, where he saw a hot coal from the
hearth fire lying on top of the biscuit and turning it black. The boy explained,
"I thought it was a turtie, and I wanted to see it husde." Well, Mother and I
read this and started laughing and couldn't stop. We laughed harder and
harder until one or both of us became hysterical, or at least to the point where
a couple of rangers came down the stairs and asked if they could help us in
any way. So we've had a lot of laughs.
Looking forward to the future. And folks, this is not the end of the line.
Mother has a lot of talks to make, a lot of places to see, a lot to write, a lot to
laugh about. Then there's my brother and me, and my wife, Anne Callison
Stokely, and the next generation after us — Elizabeth Dykeman Stokely and
William Callison Stokely — and the people of the southern mountains, who just
go on and on.
A. Good Spring
Is Mighty Hard to Come By
My first encounter with the writing of Wilma Dykeman was her
nonaction classic The French Broad. Reading that book was an important event
in my education and my discovery of the history of my own region. No other
book I read about Western North Carolina or the Southern Appalachians had
a greater impact on me just when I was discovering both the place and my
interest in writing about it. The French Broad is such a vivid book and such a
loving book. It is packed with information and insight and brilliant writing,
environmental consciousness, and gives us such a living sense of the land, the
watershed of the French Broad, the geology and geography, the Cherokee
Indians and early explorers, the settlers and the development of the culture of
the area. I read it twice as a young writer, and learned about the community
and culture along the river, and about myself.
If I had to choose one image from The French Broad to illustrate what
inspired me most, it would be the motif of springs. Wilma Dykeman's
descriptions of the headsprings of the river, and the importance of springs to
the people, thrilled me and helped me remember much about our own spring
I had forgotten. I had grown up drinking from and looking into springs.
The cold spnngs of these mountains, the springs which
feed with thousands of steady streams to make a river, have been
valued for generations by the families they feed. If halfway up a
hillside or deep in the heart of some remote cove you see a house
and wonder why its people built there rather than on easier slopes,
the answer is probably their water. Cupped in a clear steady pool
under a thicket of blackberry vines and old shade trees, their spring
bubbles from the earth like a rare gift for the taking.
When the buyers for the Great Smoky Park were
appraising some of the small landholdings on the Tennessee
boundary, one old fellow would come down from his little farm
24 NORTH G4R0UNIANA SOCIETl T
each day. "When'll you be a-getting to my place?" he'd demand of
"We'll be up there soon as we can," they'd reply.
"Well, I'm just aiming to make sure you see my spring.
You'd have to see it afore you could know the worth of my place."
At last, after these urgings had interrupted work every
morning for a week, one of the appraisers asked, "And what is it
that's so special about this spring?"
"Everything," the old man retorted. "But mainly its cold.
Year round, it stays the same: two degrees colder than ice!"
Springs influence not only homesites, but the location of
towns as well. . . . And the old records of the entire region show
consistently the influence of a bold spring on the location of
church or school or camp-meeting ground. [Pp. 11-12.]
A little later, when I read her fiction, I made equally significant
discoveries about Western North Carolina and about writing fiction. I saw
that the inevitable focus of fiction about the region was the land and the
seasons, and the strong women who struggled on the land to raise children
and feed large families, to keep their families together over the generations as
decent and responsible people. There could be no better model for a young
writer dian Wilma Dykeman's The Tall Woman. Lydia Moore McQueen is the
glue and the inspiration that hold her family and community together across
years of war, sickness, outliers, greed, disappointment, ignorance, prejudice.
Lydia is very much an individual, but also a personification of the culture at
its best. And her interest in springs, and the loving description of springs, are
among the most memorable passages in the novel. On pages 176-177 the
spring on her property is described and evoked with passionate detail.
"And what are you doing on this bleak day on this
godforsaken mountain?" Dr. Hornsby asked.
She laughed at the gloom of his words, belied in part by
the heartiness of his smile. "Cleaning mv spring."
"And pray tell me, Lydia McQueen," he said, "how do
you clean a spring? Do you wash the water?"
"Don't be making fun of me! There" — she pointed with
the hoe — "look under the ledged where the roots of those poplar
trees are, and tell me if you ever set eyes on a bolder, finer spring
than that? Or a cleaner one?"
He went and looked. The natural bowl of water,
surrounded on three sides and overhead by a ledge of rock and
tangled web of roots and earth, stood clear and cold as glass.
Around the spring and beside the stream that flowed from it were
beds of moss and galax, a luxunant winter green, and the \ines of
odier carefully preserved plants that bloomed in summer. On the
far side and overhanging the spring, were a dozen wild blackberry
stalks. There were no other briers or dead weeds or fallen limbs
TRIBUTES TO WILM4 DYKENL<1N 25
around this spot. Someone had worked here lovingly and well.
"I never set eyes on a bolder, finer spring," he repeated.
"Or a cleaner one."
"This is my favorite place on our farm," she said.
Near the end of the novel a spring ruined by logging and neglect is
described. It is a spring where Lydia once lived when she was first married to
Mark, and the spring is an index, a measure of the damage done to the land
and families by carelessness and greed. The spring is the living source that
must be cherished and protected.
Years of rain seeping through that mound of sawdust had
turned the water on the spring brackish. The spring itself was full
of leaves, abandoned and diminished. She cleaned out handfuls of
the leaves, down to the sandy bed, and waited for the water to flow
clear again. The trickle came so slowly she could hardly believe
this was the bold, fine spring she had once dipped into with deep
buckets. When the sand had settled and the stream seemed pure
again, she cupped her hands and took a drink of water. It was
tepid and tasteless.
She had gone back to Tom and her grandbaby. A wear) 7
sadness and sense of age had settled over her. "Let's get on up to
the mountain," she had said, trying to smile at them lightly.
The very next day she had cleaned out her own spring
and the spnnghouse where she kept her milk and butter and
cream, and the vessels for milking and churning. With Jessie
helping her, they had trimmed the shrubs and vines twining in the
tree roots that sheltered the spring. When they were finished, only
the fresh new growth of luxuriant leaves and ferns hung over the
moss-covered stones. Then they cleaned the spring-run, swept
down the cobwebs and mud daubers from the walls of the
spnnghouse, scrubbed out the long trough where crocks and jars,
covered widi white clodis and slabs of wood, sat in a cold, flowing
stream. When they finished, she had smiled at Jessie and said, "I
reckon I'm plumb foolish about this spring."
"Well, Mama," Jessie teased her as they walked toward
the house together, "I confess nght out, I'd hate for you to be put
to the test to have to choose between it and" — she cast around for
a startling comparison — "and me!"
Lydia kept her face straight. "A good spring is mighty
hard to come by," she had said gravely. [Pp. 305-306.]
Water is an important theme in Wilma Dykeman's second novel, The
Far Family, also.
"One thing about this jumping-off-place your sawmillmg
dragged us to, Tom Thurston," Aunt Tildy said, "it's got as good
water as ever I tasted."
"Now that's a fact," Tom agreed, pleased.
26 NORTH CAR0L1NIANA SOCIETY*
"Only better water I know of anywhere," Martha said
quietly, "is the spring on Grandpa Moore's farm." [P. 52.]
This second novel follows the heirs of Lydia Moore McQueen far
beyond the small farm in the mountains. It is a novel of growth,
development, education, politics, finance and power, as Dykeman tells the
story of this particular family in the twentieth century mountains and beyond.
It is a story of family dynamics, of loyalty and conflict, betrayal and sacrifice.
Two generations later Ivy visits the Moore homestead and feels the bond of
blood and kinship across time.
Two stone steps surrounded by moss and ferns and tiny wild
flowers led down to the natural bowl of water, scooped deep in the
sparkling sand, chilled by the secret depths from which it flowed.
The spring's overflow ran under a stone slab into the springhouse
where a long wooden trough held crocks, pitchers of milk, pans of
butter in the cool constant stream of water. . . .
There was more than land and buildings to the farm,
however. There was a past, the presence of those who had turned
this ground before, swept these floors and cleaned this
springhouse during many yesterdays. Ivy had never before been
part of this feeling of aged places, familiar paths. Her mother
involved them in this sense of continuity and the children were
captivated. [P. 104.]
As in The French Broad and The Tall Woman, Dykeman shows a
considerable knowledge and affection for rural mountain life in this second
novel. She shows how much the sense of who we are comes from memory.
But she also reveals an equally acute understanding of modern city life, of the
worlds of business, politics, affluent families. There is a knowing satiric edge
to her portraits of country clubs and cocktail parties, the chemistry of political
events, romance among the upper classes. In The Far Family she takes us from
Jesse Moore's springhouse to the champagne at a country club bash three
Phil Cordand, die young senator and descendant of Lydia McQueen,
returns to his hometown at a moment of family crisis, and attends a dinner
party with his old flame Sherry.
Phil talked with them all, effortlessly using the attentive
interest in other people which was his greatest political asset.
There were the middle-aged young, the middle-aged old, natives
and newcomers, the pleasandy wined and dined and the outright
drunk, the ones on the way up, the ones on the way down and
those who were holding on. The chief fact that struck him about
them was how much alike they were. [P. 31 1.]
One of the themes Dykeman dramatizes in The Far Family is the
standardization of modern life. With the coming of roads and railroads, mass
communication, outside investment and industry, the mountain region
TRIB UTES TO WILMA D\KENL4N 27
becomes more and more like every other part of the country. With the gains
of prosperity come the loss of character, distinctiveness. Identity is
increasingly a matter of money.
Phil felt that he might be in the state capital or
Washington or any other city — for these were not unique
Nantahala people; they were as standardized as identical hairstyles,
clothes, jokes, food, newspapers, and rebellious offspring could
make them. But although they are not unique, neither were they
universal. Paradoxically, just as Ivy and the family were
unique — -exasperatingly, humorously, sadly so — they were also
touched by universality and Phil knew that his mother could have
walked among the people in the foreign lands he had visited and
won their fnendship." [P. 314.]
I know of no work of fiction that reveals more effectively the
loneliness and emptiness in the lives of so many of the prosperous and
powerful, the outstandingly successful, than The Far Family does. In the post-
war boom the region has risen to undreamed of affluence. Families with
memories and roots in dirt farms are living in mansions, managing banks,
mingling with factory owners, senators, and governors. Yet Phil is
overwhelmed by a feeling of emptiness and pointlessness. The political world
is not at all what he imagined it would be.
As he went to get the car, Phil sighed in exasperation
both with himself and with the evening. He had never seen a
lonelier, more desperate, group of people. They held on to their
little club to show how closely they were bound together, and
essentially they were as uncommitted to one another as the lion
and impala of the jungle were uncommitted to each other. They
made up for a lack of true community with the trappings of
"community spirit." Words replaced actions. Symbols passed for
realities. [P. 315.]
Phil's uncle, Clay Thurston, is the most memorable and most painful
character in The Far Family. He is a brilliant, gifted, unpredictable man who
has never found his calling. He veers from extremes of loyalty and cruelty.
His wit is quick and destructive. His life has gone out of control. He
represents some of the worst and some of the best in the generation of
Thurstons before Phil's. Clay represents a waste of talent and ambition. He
is the genius of the family and of the region gone wrong. Everything about
Clay's life is paradoxical. He has tried to leave, yet he has returned. He is by
turns mean and generous, loyal and betraying, arrogant and apologetic. He is
the personification of the generation that has lost its way. He has a sharp
tongue and a self-destructive anger. He is possibly a murderer.
"You think the world is all so well arranged. You live here in your
pretty little room, and you make everything tidy. Well, deep down
in the gut of it all, it's nothing but chaos." He said it triumphantly,
28 NORTH C4R0UNL4NA SOCIETY^
as if in victory rather than defeat. He went on talking.
But Ivy was listening to what he was not saying as well as
what he was putting into words. And even as Clay spoke, as he
seemed so positive, the question was in his eyes. . . . Only
someone who ached to believe in purpose, design, could disbelieve
so fiercely. [P. 347.]
Clay Thurston is one of Dykeman's most memorable characters. He
has given most of his life to gambling. He is hopelessly addicted to gambling,
not only with cards and dice and roulette wheels, but with his friendships and
loves, with his family, his career, with life itself. Gambling is so much a part
of him, Clay only feels alive when the stakes are high and the odds long.
What mattered was this exultation rising like a gorge within him.
Clay Thurston bestrode the world. Whatever he might have
undertaken in that moment — conquest of a queen, a country, a
continent — he could not have been denied. Or deflected. Or
defeated. For he was a conqueror. Alexander the Great and
Hannibal over the Alps, Napoleon and a whole covey of Caesars.
He knew what they had felt. He, too, was invincible.
Of course, in the end, sometime around noon, the dice
had begun to grow cold. [P. 350.]
More than any other character in Wilma Dykeman's fiction, Clay
embodies the contradictions and cross purposes in our modern region.
Addicted to gambling, to risk, to self-destruction, he is drawn also to
sentiment, to family loyalty. And he is also drawn to mockery and cruelty. He
cares and does not care. He is successful as a builder, and he is a failure as a
husband, son, brother, uncle. He is smarter than most, and yet in everyone's
eyes, including his own, he is a failure and an embarrassment.
After his death his sister Ivy contemplates his character, and the
sadness of his fate. Ivy is the character who most closely represents the point
of view of the reader, and perhaps the author, in The Far Family. Ivy thinks:
Clay felt that no one cared. . . . Clay had always
demanded of the world, even when he was defying it most
belligerently, fighting it most savagely. . . . But all the ripping and
tearing and rebellion had been a casing, a skin for the raw,
quivering protoplasm of him which begged, "Like me! Love me!
Let me know that I am here and that I matter. . . ."
Ivy sighed, "But the secret — ah Clay, the secret, was to
say, 'I Like! I Love!' And then you possessed the world." [P. 372.]
One of the special things about Dykeman's third novel, Return the
Innocent Earth, is that the first person narrative sections are spoken by a
contemporary male character, Jonathan Clayburn, Jr. Jon is a senior vice-
president of Clayburn-Durant Foods, and he is the presiding conscience and
consciousness in the story. Readers and reviewers are often surprised when
women authors write from a male perspective, and male authors write from
TRIBUTES TO WTLMA D\KENL4N 29
a woman's point of view. But one of the glories of fiction writing, and
reading, is the discovery of the world through other eyes, other voices. The
way stories connect with other lives keeps us reading, and writing them. One
of the rewards of fiction is this reaching across the boundaries of gender,
geography, class, race, ethnicity, religion, even language. And not least is the
way fiction can give us a window on the past, reaching across the generations
to give us a sense of kinship and community with those who came before us.
Return the Innocent Earth is a dynastic story, the story of the building of
a canning corporation in East Tennessee and then across the nation. It is a
story of seed time and harvest, from mountain spring to the boardroom.
Most of all it is the story of a family, the Clayburn family, beginning with
Elisha and Mary on their farm in the mountains, and the extended family of
community and business. It is a story of growth, from pumpkin patch to
Return the Innocent Earth reveals an astonishing knowledge of business,
the metiiods of business and organization, the cultures of business, the ethics
of business. I know of no other novel that gives such an intimate and
sweeping view of the process of business growth, the setbacks and triumphs,
the uncertainties and vision, decision making and how personalities define
policies as much as rules and principles. The novel should be required reading
in every business school.
As Dykeman revealed a considerable insight into the political world
in The Ear Eamily, the country club and courthouse, she shows a special
understanding of the process of manufacturing, development, research, and
marketing in Return the Innocent Earth. She illustrates with precision and clarity
the technology and experiments that go into modern business. The novel is
an education in methods of research, quality control, labor studies,
environmental concerns. The novel is a portrait of industry, including both
the horrors and the industrial sublime. There is a feeling for the thrill of
enterprise, competitiveness, growth, the drive toward excellence and winning.
The character named Stull is the embodiment of ruthless ambition,
blind ambition. Rather than cooperation, communication, team play, he
relishes the fight itself, and victory, whatever the cost. His instincts are those
of a killer.
Stull wanted something. And whatever it was, he wanted it
exclusively and totally and at the cheapest price possible. Whoever
sat opposite him was automatically an adversary. Winning was all.
But Stull's cousin Jon, the narrator of much of the book and the
leading character, sees competition and industry in another way. He sees the
company not only as its products and profits, but as the people who
contribute, who do die daily work. The company includes die soil from which
30 NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
the crops grow, and the food to nourish and nurture a society.
This mid-town, five-story brick building grew from the wide flat
cornfields surrounding this midwestern metropolis where the
Durants had built a food empire, and grew from the nver-bottom
acres in the mountain South where the Clayburns had built their
business, and grew from the cool acres of clear chartreuse spring
peas in Wisconsin. . . . The fragrance of ketchup gathered all up
on one bouquet. [Pp. 20-21.]
A major theme in Return the Innocent Earth is the need and importance
of remembering. Men like Stull have no interest in the past. They only want
to move forward, toward the bigger and richer, the more powerful. But Jon
Clayburn, Jr. wants to keep in touch with the past, his family past, with its
roots in land and place. He says, "I could remember. I needed to remember."
Canning is part of two worlds and there is no escaping
either. Land and computers. Seeds and machinery. Weather and
sales charts. The gone-before and yet-to-come are by-products of
every can we fill. Yet in those big, sleek central offices in the
midwestern metropolis where I live, we lose touch. [P. 35.]
Return the Innocent Earth is Jon's act of remembering, of reconnecting,.
He knows that to know himself he must connect with the past, with his family
past and the region's past. To lose the past is to lose identity, to lose the
present and future also. We know who we are because we know what came
I come from a line of remembering people. In
generations past we built churches and ballads and a way of life out
of our remembering, handing down words the way others pass
along designs woven into coverlets, carved into wood, or worked
into clay. But now that is going too — the woven words and the
cloth and aU. [P. 36.]
Clear water is a motif in Return the Innocent Earth as it is in the two
novels that precede it. When Jonathan Clayburn, Sr. tells his dream to Cebo,
he describes darkness, and narrowness, lostness and fear. It is a dream of
anxiety and confusion, until he hears the sound of water.
... I heard an unbelievable sound. It was running water. When
I looked, I found the boldest, clearest river seen on this round
globe. And I lay nght down in its swift, deep current and it earned
me through a passage in the mountains and out near home. [P.
After he describes his dream Cebo, the ancient voice of folklore and
wisdom, responds, "That about the best luck can come, a dream of clear
Water is always the sign of continuity, of health, of renewal, in
Dykeman's fiction. It is an almost Biblical symbol of life.
TRIBUTES TO W7LM4 D\KEMAN 31
What a gallery of portraits we get in Return the Innocent Earth. Some are
legends to the narrator, Jon Clayburn, Jr., and they come to seem like legends
to us: the young Elisha Clayburn who began the timber business and the
drover business that led to the family prosperity; Mary Clayburn his widow,
the tough, strict, wise matriarch, dogmatic and driven; Old Cebo, born in
slavery, family employee, rememberer and seer, seer and sayer, the Tiresias of
the story; Nora Stull Clayburn, the debutante from Richmond who marries
into the rising family; Lonas Rankin, gifted and independent black man, victim
of prejudice; Stull Clayburn, manic and desperate in his fight for corporate
As die Clayburn family grows increasingly affluent, they become part
of the very fabric of the city of Churchill and the society of the region. They
are dedicated to business, to growth, to rising in the world. Their credo is
summarized in Chapter Five.
They believed in the brick house. . . . They believed in the
white clapboard church. . . . They believed in the concrete
courthouse. At Churchill's core, it filled a ragged square of
trampled grass. . . .
They believed in the rock-veneered bank. . . .
These were the boundanes of Clayburn belief, translated
into wood and solidified into mortar: Family. God. Law. Money.
And they translated into big slipper}- words: love, purpose, order,
security. [Pp. 151-152.]
Dykeman has a special understanding of the code of maleness. I can't
think of a contemporary fiction writer who has portrayed better the masculine
sense of self. As Jon Clayburn describes his own growth, his own recognition
of what it means to become a man, to act like a man in a man's world, we
recognize the accuracy of his account, the truth of his realization.
But I knew the code I had broken with Stull. Even then
I knew, although I could not have put it into words. We
(especially we boys, we men) were not supposed to discuss the
innerness of life. We were supposed to observe true division of
Sunday from Monday. We were splintered into a half-dozen
fragments and our maturity was measured not by trying to make
the parts into a whole but by juggling the pieces cleverly,
separately, so that no one saw the empty spaces. ... I remained
acutely aware of the embarrassment most Clayburns felt in
confronting or discussing the creative, spiritual, moral, sexual,
intangible forces of our lives. [Pp. 161-162.]
Perhaps the most moving scene in the novel is tiiat where the brother
Dan has let slip an obscene phrase in front of his mother, Mary Clayburn. He
and Ins siblings are paralyzed by embarrassment. All wait in terror to see what
the strict Maty Clayburn will do to punish him. It is a very tense scene. She
surprises them, and us, by ordering Dan to go out and break a hickory, then
32 NORTH C4R0UNIANA SOCIETY
sends him back to get a larger switch, and then orders him to whip her, since
if he has done wrong it is her fault. She is his mother and she is responsible.
He breaks down in tears, but she will not let him off.
The sigh of the supple birch bough echoed down the
"Again, Daniel. Harder."
The sound of the striking and the crying mingled.
Eventually the ordeal was finished. They heard the
switch strike against the wall and fall to the floor as Dan flung it
away from him. They heard him run upstairs. [Pp. 188-189.]
Jonathan Clayburn, Sr. survives typhoid and loses his first love, the
part-Cherokee nymph of the woods, Laura Rathbone. He eventually marries
Livie Lee Montgomery of the local banking family. World War One comes
and goes. One of the best portraits in the novel is Dykeman's description of
the affluent Montgomery family.
Along with heirlooms of silver and rosewood and
mahogany, along with legends of lavish sociability and leadership,
the family legacy included the flaring nostnls, white and tight; the
blazing eyes; the hard mouth blasting forth blasphemy and
destruction; the raging body and unreasonable mind that won its
moment's victory — and lost everything. This remained as part of
the legacy of black slavery, this white self-slavery whose adherents
believed in the paramount importance of its own whims and
wishes, believed that each should be fulfilled. [P. 265.]
Jonathan Clayburn, Jr. is not satisfied with the success of the
Clayburn-Durant corporation. Is the company harming employees and
customers with die sprays they use on crops? Are they polluting the streams
near their canning factories? Are they spoiling the land, and the communities
where they operate? Has the family lost its integrity, purpose, loyalty? Its
activities have come to seem suspect to Jon.
. . . [W]e searched for answers, for certainty and meaning in the
labyrinths of machines, laboratories, charts more sophisticated
than die pattern of the heavens on a starry night. We reached for
meaning in power, the small, fragmented but nevertheless tangible
power of a company's products and payroll and financial mystique.
Yet the meaning eluded us. [P. 352.]
In the end Jonathan realizes he must take charge and confront his
cousin Stull and his ruthless policies, before all is ruined. He must wrestle
control of the company from Stall's manic, drunken, and perhaps mad
obsession with power. He must return the company to the more democratic,
reasonable and responsible policies that made them successful in the first
place, and over the long haul.
Knowing, remembering how the kernel of our victories
TRIB UTES TO WILMA D\KENL-1N 33
is defeat, that the winner may become a reincarnation of the
enemy he thought to vanquish, I pause — and feel my hand
clutched inside my jacket pocket. I consider Burl Smelcer and the
revelation he has flashed into my insulated life, calling into account
both the realism I serve and the idealism I cherish.
Now the real contest begins. Within myself. What do I
want? Want above all? And what am I willing to pay? [P. 428.]
Besides her fiction, Wilma Dykeman has published more than a dozen
books of nonfiction. With her husband James Stokely, Jr. she has given us
sensitive and progressive studies of the modern South, and with her sons
Dykeman Stokely and James Stokely III haunting portraits of the people of
the Smokies. She has enriched us with a memorable history of the battle of
Kings Mountain, and the poetry of "Haunting Memories."
It is an honor to pay tribute to Wilma Dykeman, who has contributed
so much to the region, and to Asheville, with her writing. Like a mountain
spring, she has given us a bold, steady stream of sparkling words over the
years. Her presence has been an inspiration to so many contemporary writers,
and certainly she has been an inspiration to me. I am proud to say that she is
one of our state's treasures, and I am proud to say that she belongs to us here,
in the mountains.
Presentation of the A.ward
Willis P. Which ard, President of the Society
Dykeman, Jim, Robert, thank all of you for your splendid perspectives
on our honoree.
If you will look at the easel in front of the room, you will see a
photograph of the sterling silver trophy representing the North Caroliniana
Society Award. That two-handled cup is the result of the Society's decision
in 1991 to give to John and Ann Sanders the task of selecting a tangible
symbol of the North Caroliniana Society Award. This is not just "another"
cup; it already had a distinguished history connecting the family of Thomas
Jefferson with diat of Calvin Coolidge. The story, too lengthy to be repeated
at this hour, will be found in the Society's annual report for 1990-1991. The
trophy was appropriately engraved with the wording, "The North Caroliniana
Society Award for distinguished contributions to North Carolina history and
culture." Then, to provide its proper exhibition in the North Carolina
Collection, John and Ann designed and arranged for the crafting of a
handsome mahogany stand, together with silver plates on which the names of
recipients are engraved. The entire ensemble graces the North Carolina
Collection's Reading Room.
John and Ann also selected modest sterling cups, one of which is
appropriately engraved and presented to each recipient. The simplicity of the
cup is emblematic of the North Caroliniana Society's dedication to
"Substance, not Show," the most essential quality we seek in each year's
This year's recipient, like those before her, epitomizes substance over
show. Wilma, please accept this cup as a symbol of the Society's award and
make such remarks as you choose.
Acceptance of the Award
A doctor once told Flannery O'Connor she had to have rest. She
should do no work for at least a month. She protested that she was writing
a book she had to finish. "Oh, that's all right," he replied, "just don't do any
How refreshing it is to be with people who know that a writer, even
a woman writer, is engaged in real work. Balancing that effort with the
privilege and commitment of being a daughter, a wife, a mother, friend, and
citizen of a community, provides an experience that is as rewarding as it is
challenging. Seldom is that effort acknowledged so generously to such an
illustrious gathering as we find here tonight.
Wise and witty Mark Twain once observed that humans are the only
creatures that blush — or need to. Tonight I blush, not for reasons that Mark
Twain probably had in mind but for inadequate use of the tools of my trade:
I never knew it was so difficult to say "thank you." I mean to say it
in an original, deeply memorable way.
Thank you. We train our toddlers to lisp it when they accept an
adult's hug or toy.
We nudge our teenagers to mumbled it when grandparents bring
them a sweater two sizes too small or a kiddie's puzzle.
Thank you. Clerks, salesmen, fundraisers, assure us of appreciation
even before we have established any commerce with them.
There is a true Thank You, however, that is simple and never shop-
worn. I offer it tonight.
Thank you, Judge Whichard, for outstanding leadership of this Society
and especially for your gracious presentation of an award that carries a special
distinction for any North Carolinian.
Thank you, H. G. Jones, for your quiet, steadfast, and invaluable
leadership in establishing the North Carolina Archives as one of our rich
cultural resources (and for your warm-hearted, good-humored friendship
36 NORTH C4R0UNL4NA SOCIETY'
through many years).
During recent weeks there were moments when I questioned my
wisdom in opening a floodgate to family memories that might be better left
interred. Not to worry. Thank you, Dykeman and Jim, for coming from a
distance to share this evening as we have shared so many unforgettable
moments of surprise, travel, achievement, loss, understanding born out of
misunderstanding, and above all, love. You and Anne and my two
grandchildren are the light of my life.
But how shall I say Thank You to Robert Morgan? I blush at my
inability to give tihose two words new lustre. They must bear the weight of my
appreciation for your thoughtful reading of the three novels. Every writer
should find such a reader at sometime in her/his life. You entered the very
head and heart of all that I tried to create in these stories of my place and my
people. I suppose I should not have been surprised when certain passages you
chose to read were my own favorites. Such attention requires time — of which
you find too little, I'm sure — and a critical sense that is intellectually inclusive
of both the academic and non-academic community, sensitive to the nuances
of words and life.
For your subtle insights and rare generosity of spirit, I thank you,
Robert Morgan. I treasure your presence here tonight, your judgement, your
Finally, I turn once more to Mark Twain's understanding of human
nature. When Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn have tricked Aunt Polly's
conventional community into believing they are dead, they hide in the church
loft and attend their own funeral where they hear such praise and grief that
they are almost moved to tears themselves. Isn't it a universal wish that Twain
fulfills: that we might hear the excesses we hope our own funeral will inspire?
If I've heard part of my own service tonight, I'm glad you pushed the
boundaries of accuracy while I'm still here. I've enjoyed every minute of it.
Thank you. Now I must get back to work.
TRIBUTES TO WllMA DYKEM4N
NORTH CAROUNIANA SOCIETY AWARD RECIPIENTS
Prank H. Kenan
Sam]. Ervin, Jr.
Archie K. Davis
Gertrude Sprague Carraway
North Carolina Collection
John Tries Blair
EeRqy T. Walker
William C <& Ida H. Triday
J. Carlyle Sitterson
William S. Powell
Hugh MacRae Morton
Mary D.B.T & James Semans
John E Sanders
Doris Waugh Betts
William McWhorter Cochrane
Emma Neal Momson
Richard H. Jenrette
Wilma Dyke man
Taivrence T. Eondon
NORTH C4R0UNL4NA SOCIETY
WILMA DYKENL4N speaks as Robert Morgan and other friends listen. The head
table at the banquet featured (left to right) H. G. Jones, Dykeman Stokely, Fannie
Morgan, Willis Whichard, Wilma Dykeman, Robert Morgan, and Jim Stokely.
TRIBUTES TO WILMA DYKEMAN
FAMILY -4ND FRIENDS: Wilma Dykeman poses (top) with sons Dykeman and
Jim, (middle) with Robert Morgan and his mother Fannie Morgan, and (bottom) with
another writer-friend and mountain native, Fred Chappell.
NORTH C4R0UNTTNA SOCIETY'
ROBERT MORG.4N and his mother Fannie Morgan visit with old friends, including
fellow author Fred Chappell (top). At bottom, his mother chats with H. G. Jones and Fred
TRIBUTES TO WILML4 D^TEMAN
A FEW OF WILMA DYKEM4NS FRIENDS: (Top) Roy Parker, Hugh
Morton, and Marie Parker; (middle) Hugh Morton and Bill Cecil; and (bottom) Reita
Rivers and Todd Bailey.
42 NORTH C4R0UNL4NA SOCIETY^
MORE ADMIRERS: (Top) Bill Snider, Henry Lewis, and Flo Snider; (middle) George
Briggs (Director of the North Carolina Arboretum) and friends; (bottom) Ed and Betty
TRIBUTES TO WILM4 DYKEMAN
AND A FEW MOKE FRIENDS CAPTURED BY THE CAMERA: (Top)
Marjorie and John Idol; (middle) Bob Anthony and Chick Squire; and (bottom) Kathy and
The North Caroliniana Society
Wilson Library, Campus Box 3930
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514-8890
Telephone (919) 962-1 172; Fax (919) 962-4452; E-mail: h & ones@emai/.nnc.edn
Chartered on 11 September 1975 as a private nonprofit corporation under provisions
of Chapter 55A ot the General Statutes of North Carolina, the North Caroliniana Society is
dedicated to the promotion of increased knowledge and appreciation of North Carolina's
heritage through the encouragement of scholarly research and writing in and teaching of state
and local history and literature; publication of documentary materials, including the numbered,
limited-edition North Caroliniana Society Imprints and North Caroliniana Society Keepsakes;
sponsorship of professional and lay conferences, seminars, lectures, and exhibitions;
commemoration of historic events, including sponsorship of markers and plaques; and through
assistance to the North Carolina Collection of UNC-Chapel I Iill and other cultural organizations
with kindred objectives.
Incorporated by H. G.Jones, William S. Powell, and Louis M. Connor, Jr., who soon
were joined by a distinguished group of North Carolinians, the Society was limited to a hundred
members for the first decade. It elects from time to time additional individuals meeting its strict
criterion of "adjudged performance" in service to their state's culture — i.e., those who have
demonstrated a continuing interest in and support of the historical, literary, and cultural heritage
of North Carolina. The Society, a tax-exempt organization under provisions of Section 501(c)(3)
of the Internal Revenue Code, expects continued service from its members, and for its programs
it depends upon the contributions, bequests, and devises of its members and friends. Its IRS
number is 56-1119848. Upon request, contributions to the Society may be counted toward
Chancellor's Club membership. The Society administers a fund, given in 1987 by the Research
Triangle Foundation in honor of its retiring board chairman and the Society's longtime
president, from which nearly 200 Archie K. Davis Fellowships have been awarded for research
in North Carolina's historical and cultural resources.
A highlight of the Society's year is the presentation of the North Caroliniana Society
Award to an individual or organization for long and distinguished service in the encouragement,
production, enhancement, promotion, and preservation of North Caroliniana. Starting with Paul
Green, the Society has recognized Albert Coates, Sam J. Ervin, Jr., Sam Ragan, Gertrude S.
Carraway, John Fries Blair, William and Ida Friday, William S. Powell, Maty and )ames Semans,
David Stick, William M. Cochrane, Emma Neal Morrison, Burke Davis, Lawrence F. London,
Frank H. Kenan, Charles Kuralt, Archie K. Davis, FI. G. Jones, J. Carlyle Sitterson, Leroy T.
Walker, Flugh M. Morton, John L. Sanders, Doris Betts, Reynolds Price, Richard H. Jenrette,
and Wilma Dykeman, and, on its sesquicentennial, the North Carolina Collection.
The Society, without a bureaucracy and with volunteer staff, is headquartered in the
North Carolina Collection, the "Conscience of North Carolina," which seeks to preserve for
future generations all that is published by North Carolinians regardless of subject or language and
about North Carolina or North Carolinians regardless of author or source.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Willis P. Whichard, President
Archie K. Davis (1911-1998) and William C. Friday, Presidents Emeriti
William S. Powell, Vice-President
FI. G. Jones, Secretary-Treasurer
II. David Bruton, Betty A. Hodges, Dana Borden Lacy, Flenry W. Lewis,
Nancy C. Lilly, W. Trent Ragland, Jr., John L. Sanders, Robert W. Scott, William D. Snider
William McWhorter Cochrane, Honorary Life Director
NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY IMPRINTS
[continued from inside front cover]
No. 18. The Emma Neal Morrison 1 Know (1989)
by Ida Howe 11 Friday
No. 19. Thomas Wolfe's Composition Books (1990)
edited by Alice R. Cot ten
No. 20. My Father, Burke Darn (1990)
by Angela Dam-Gardner
No. 21. A Half Century with Rare Books (1991)
by iMwrence F. Condon
No. 22. Frank H. Kenan: An Appreciation (1992)
edited by Archie K. Daiis
No. 23. Growing Up in North Carolina, Iry Charles Kuralt, and
The Uncommon laureate, Iry Wallace H. Kuralt (1993)
No. 24. Chancellors Extraordinary: J. Carlyle Sitterson and TeRny T Walker (1995)
by William C Friday and Willis P. Whichard
No. 25. Historical Consciousness in the Early Republic (1995)
edited by H. G. Jones
No. 26. Sixty Years with a Camera (1996)
by Hugh M. Morton
No. 27. William Gaston as a Public Man (1997)
by John C Sanders
No. 28. William P. Cumming and the Study of Cartograply (1998)
edited by Robert Cumming
No. 29. My Cove Affair with Carolina (1998)
Iry Doris Waugh Betts
No. 30. A Single but Huge Distinction (1999)
by Reynolds Price
No. 31. Richard J enrette's Adventures in Historic Preservation (2000)
edited by IT. G. Jones
No. 32. Sketches in North Carolina USA 1872 to 1878 (2001)
try Mortimer O. Heath; edited by H. G. Jones
No. 13. Roots and Branches (2001)
by Wilma Dykeman
FOR USE ONLY IN
THE NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION
Form No. A-368, Rev. 8/95